Gabrielle Giffords' new gun control ad: Effective?

The former congresswoman launches into her new role as an activist by urging her former colleagues to do all they can to curb gun violence

"Congress must act. Let's get this done."
(Image credit: Screen shot)

Former U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in a 2011 mass shooting, left Congress to focus on her recovery, but she continues to make her presence felt on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Giffords' new super PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, released its first TV ad calling for tighter gun-control laws. In the 30-second spot, Giffords urges her former colleagues to take bold and immediate action to curb gun violence. "We have a problem — where we shop, where we pray, where our children go to school," Giffords says in the ad. "But there are solutions we can agree on, even gun owners like us. Take it from me: Congress must act. Let's get this done."

The ad is intended to help build support for new laws, especially requiring universal background checks for gun buyers, says Jonathan Allen at Politico. It will run in places where it will get plenty of attention — Washington, D.C., and in media markets reaching the constituents of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Giffords' PAC also plans to use timing for maximum effect, airing the ad as a bookend on cable TV in Washington before and after President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday. The ad is probably the first of many — "there are still differences among majority Senate Democrats about which provisions to include in a gun control bill, and House Republican leaders, who generally oppose gun restrictions, have made no move toward legislating."

Giffords might not convert people right away, says Jennifer Steinhauer at The New York Times, but she and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, are hoping to influence the outcome of the recently renewed gun-control debate "by leveraging the power of their names and their story." For years, the gun lobby has overshadowed gun-control advocates in policy debates. Giffords might change that:

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For nearly two decades, the National Rifle Association has succeeded in rewarding lawmakers who backed legislation supporting gun rights and firearm manufacturers and punishing those who did not. Those efforts largely overwhelmed the voices on the opposing side.

But after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December that left 20 elementary school pupils dead, Ms. Giffords and Mr. Kelly — with several others like Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York — are trying to sway races from the other side. [New York Times]

Giffords' is more than a popular spokesperson, says Nick Wing at The Huffington Post. Her political action committee "plans to raise $20 million ahead of the 2014 elections in an effort to combat the influence of pro-gun advocates such as the National Rifle Association." And airing the spot in connection with such a high-profile speech by Obama, who's launching his own anti-gun-violence push, certainly could help Americans for Responsible Solutions "make the most out of the ad's rollout."

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.